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DIY Shelter: Details & Prep Work


Insulated Coolers

To ensure that the life of the shelter, and the internal weatherproofing, find insulated coolers to use as the base of your main shelter body.

I recommend a 70qt Coleman Xtreme cooler for this project. The 70qt size provides enough space for 2-3 cats per shelter. Plus this cooler has built in cup holders on the lid, which is essential for attaching the feet.

To build larger cat shelters you can use a 120qt cooler or a 150qt cooler and add a divider for a double enclosure. I’ll cover these shelters in a future tutorial.

So long as the cooler is generally intact and the exterior all is not punctured, the condition does not matter for the needs of this project. I prefer find a stock of used, damaged and/or returned coolers from online or local retailers. Generally, these will be offered at highly discounted rate

Look for coolers which are dark in color if possible, such as forest green or black, unless you have a request for a lighter color due to the location where the shelters will be places. The color of the shelters is meant to provide a basic camouflage and cover effect when the shelters are set out on location. The more the shelters blend into the background, the less unwanted attention that they will draw, the safer the occupants will stay.

PVC Pipe (Exits and Feet)

For this project you will need two (2) different sizes of PVC pipe. Make sure that you get PVC pipe and not PVC tube. The main difference is that PVC pipe size refers to inside diameter and PVC tube size refers to outside diameter.

  • 6" PVC pipe will always measure 6" from inside edge to inside edge of the inner wall of the pipe. The exterior measurements will vary depending on the thickness of the outer wall of the PVC itself.

  • 6" PVC tube will always measure 6" from outside edge to outside edge for the exterior. The interior dimensions of the tube will vary depending on the thickness of the outer wall of the PVC itself.

Exits (Entrances)

For the exits (entrances) to the shelter you will need 6” PVC pipe. This is the perfect width for cats to fit into while keeping would be predators out. The number of shelters you plan to make will determine the overall length of pipe.

For each shelter cut two (2) sections, measuring 4” (inches). Your local hardware store should be able to cut this for you If you do not have the tools at home.


For the feet you will need 2” PVC pipe with dimensions close to 3.1 x 2.8 x 2.8 inches. With epoxy, this size pipe will fit perfectly into the cup holders on the lid of your cooler.For each shelter you will need four (4) even pieces measuring 3-4” (inches).

Liner, Snaps & Screws

For the winter flaps, you will need at least one (1) sheet of 45 miL, unseamed pond liner. Make sure that you buy new liner and not used.

miL is a derived unit of length in a system using inches, equal to ​¹⁄₁₀₀₀ of an inch; not to be confused with a millimeter or milliliter.

The most cost-effective option that I have found is buying a 5' (foot) x 5' (foot) sheets from Amazon. However, always look to see if you have a local retailer who is willing to donate or provide a discount, find out.

do NOT substitute pond liner for shower pan liner or plastic sheeting. these materials are TOXIC to pets and unsafe for this project.

You will also need a pack of marine grade snaps and screws to attach the flaps to the shelter, as well as a small bit for the drill. The bit and drill are to drill pilot holes for the screws.

For each shelter you will have two (2) screws per exit and two (2) snaps per flap; totaling four (4) sets per shelter.

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